Over the past 15 or so years every new superhero toyline that springs up has been anointed as "the new Super Powers" by someone or other. I’ve always argued against it in every case, or just plain laughed it off. While Super Powers might not be able to compare to today’s manufacturing techniques that allow more detailed sculpts and paint jobs, and single figures might pale in comparison to a single modern sculpt, as a whole the line has never been surpassed in my eyes.
Because the whole line has always had as its key strength one characteristic that has been unmatched since: consistency. Consistency in scale, consistency in style, consistency in features and articulation. More than most line, you immediately know when you see a Super Powers figure just what collection it is part of. And then you have the fringe benefits of the line being well thought out: every character can easily stand on it’s own, the action features make sense and are hidden, and pretty much every major character was included before the line’s untimely demise. Top it off with the added bonus of no variants and all new crazy characters added to the mix, and Super Powers was the proverbial lightning striking.
And as we all know, lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. And up until now, no other line has come close to matching these criteria. Yes, I said up until NOW. But now, after all these years, I finally do think we’re seeing the true successor to Super Powers: Mattel’s DC Universe Classics. True, Mattel has stumbled around with the DC license for the past few years (they’re really stretching out that learning curve!) but after finally landing the master toy license they seem to have hit their stride. Although we won’t discuss the JLU line, which people somehow equate to Super Powers greatness based on depth of character alone. But I digress…
So why DCUC? Well, a huge part of the reason is the sheer greatness of the driving force behind the line: the Four Horsemen. We all already know that the Horsemen do a great job on everything they touch, but this line looks to be their crowning glory. How much of the direction being taken is their doing, and if Mattel plots out every little detail or just stands back and gets out of their way I don’t know. And to be honest, I don’t care as long as the direction seen so far stays that way! In any case, even if we didn’t know that the Horsemen were huge Super Powers fans, their work surely tells us this fact: the versions of Lex Luthor and Brainiac that have been released in the earlier Superman line are sporting their Super Powers togs. And of course we know that Mattel’s DC man on the scene, Scott "ToyGuru" Neitlich keeps a Super Powers checklist at his desk for comparison. And really, that new Hal Jordan Green Lantern figure sealed the deal for me. The Super Powers Green Lantern has always been (in my mind) the perfect realization of a comic character in figure form. It just stick outs from the pack for some reason. But the new DCUC Hal is just…awesome. If the final product looks like the prototype, it may be my new favorite figure.
And speaking of the character selection, with 15 characters down and only 19 more to go they are nearly halfway through the Super Powers roster with only the first 3 of 5 waves for 2008. And it’s doubtful that they can/will make Samurai, Golden Pharoah, or Cyclotron due to licensing issues so they really have only 16 more characters until they match exactly the Super Powers line-up. But outside of that line-up they’ve already produced iconic versions of many, many characters that Kenner never came close to touching, like Clayface and Etrigan. And dare I hope one day the Horsemen are given free reign to insert their own characters into the line from time to time? Probably not. But by the time the license expires in 2012 (if it isn’t renewed for some reason) we’ll have seen 150+ unique figures in this line. All in scale. All in the same style.
All completely consistent.
And that, my friends, is why for the first time I look forward to having a unified display to rival the only one that has been near to my heart for almost 20 years. God bless you, Four Horsemen. God bless you, Mattel. Now hurry up and fix JLU, you bastards!